The Sustainable Viticulture Project was initiated in 2005 as an important outreach effort of the Grape and Wine Institute (GWI).
The goal of the project is to assist growers in maximizing production of high quality fruit while minimizing negative environmental impact. More specifically, the producer-oriented objectives of this project include the following:
- Identify and demonstrate vineyard best management practices to regional producers.
- Disseminate information about vineyard management, and insect pest and disease management to producers in a timely and efficient manner.
- Monitor adoption of vineyard best management practices through surveys, quantify progress made by private industry and identify any constraints to further implementation.
GWI has adopted a three-step approach to accomplish these objectives:
The first step is in-field validation. Although many grape production regions have the benefit of hundreds of years of local experience in determining wise production practices, the resurgence of the Midwestern grape industry is still in its infancy.
Best practices found to be beneficial in other regions have often proved useful in the Midwest as well, but must be tested under local conditions before they can be recommended. In addition, pest and disease complexes can vary by location: locally derived solutions to localized problems are sometimes necessary.
As a part of the project, GWI maintains four verification and demonstration "Lighthouse Vineyards" within commercial operations in Missouri and two in Arkansas. The purpose of these vineyards is to validate current vineyard best management practices under local conditions and to demonstrate these practices and techniques to regional growers. Optimal canopy management, pest insect management and disease control methods are primary emphasis areas.
GWI's second step is a tactic for attaining the above goals by conducting Sustainable Viticulture Tailgate meetings. This outreach effort grants GWI personnel and collaborators an opportunity to provide detailed and timely instruction in a vineyard setting to commercial producers on a wide variety of production-oriented subjects.
Typically held at two Arkansas locations and four Missouri locations, most Tailgate meetings are held at Lighthouse Vineyards and feature an in-field component to ensure high take-away value for growers. These practical, producer-oriented workshops are typically held four times during the growing season, with a seasonal wrap-up meeting at the end of the year to preview the latest GWI research results.
In addition to providing an excellent educational opportunity for commercial producers, Tailgate meetings also provide GWI personnel and collaborators an opportunity to evaluate adoption of sustainable viticulture and interact with producers about constraints to further implementation.
The third step includes providing additional learning opportunities for industry stakeholders through e-mail alerts and updates, GWI's quarterly newsletter "The Midwest Winegrower," and the production of a Vineyard Best Management Practices Workbook, which is presently under development.
Although the e-mail alerts and newsletter will be oriented toward subjects of near- and mid-term interest, respectively, the workbook is envisioned as a comprehensive grape production manual developed specifically for the Midwest region.